Martin Lawrence Photography

Photography locations around Buttermere

Posted on 20th March, 2018


You've packed your bags and camera gear and you're off to Buttermere for a few days. The question is, how are you going to find those killer locations where you can get great images to add to your portfolio. Have no fears - I'm going to tell you where they are. Or even better, why not join me on one of my 1-2-1 or small group Workshops and we can visit them together.

Buttermere is one of the prettiest lakes in the Western area of the English Lake District. It’s a very busy spot and it can be impossible to park there on a bank holiday or sunny summer weekend. Best then to go through the week if you can, when it's much less crowded.

There is a footpath running around its perimeter (4.5 miles or 7.2 km) which leads to some of the best photography locations around Buttermere and I'm going to take you to all of them!

You can reach Buttermere from Keswick by either Newlands pass or Honister pass or from Cockermouth by the B5289 via Lorton.
There is a Lake District National Park car park in the centre of the village behind the Bridge Hotel (OS grid reference NY 172 169) and also a National Trust car park a little way up the road (OS grid reference NY 172 172). Both are pay & display unless, in the case of the latter, you are a member of the National Trust and get there very early!

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: The lone tree at Buttermere Prints Available

Our walk starts at the Lake District National Park car park. Leave the car park and turn right, passing the Fish Hotel to follow a broad track through a couple of gates ignoring the signpost to Scale Force. When it swings right, leave it and go straight on to the edge of the lake. Here you can get a great shot down Buttermere to Fleetwith Pike with an old post and wire fence as a lead in line on the left.

Go through the gate on your left and, after about 50 yards, you will find the famous ‘lone tree’ which has sadly now lost many of its branches. It still makes for an iconic image, particularly in the winter months, when it’s free of leaves. It will be easy to find - it's the one with all the photographers around it. It has a fantastic backdrop with views down the full length of the lake to Fleetwith Pike and Warnscale Bottoms. After a period of rain, it may well be partly submerged in the water surrounded by some very attractive grasses which make the perfect foreground for a great shot. 

To emphasise the tree, get low and frame carefully so the branches are against the sky. A low sun in winter is ideal for silhouetting the tree against a side-lit Fleetwith Pike and, if you are lucky, there may be ice crystals at the edge of the lake. Visiting on a still day will reward you with some great reflections but you'll need to get up very early before the breeze gets up.

Fill your card then move on. 

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Cascades at Sourmilk Gill, Buttermere Dubs

Continue along the path or along the pebble shoreline following the line of trees alongside the lake to a bridge at Buttermere Dubs with good views all the way. There are lots of large rocks and fallen trees that make great lead-in lines for your shots.

Cross a small footbridge and go through a nearby gate in a wall at the foot of Burtness Wood to find the cascade of Sourmilk Gill where you can get slow-moving shots of the foaming white water against the red rocks. These are particularly good if the beck is in spate.

Don't be tempted to start climbing up by the waterfall as the path is extremely slippery and dangerous and people have died trying to do so.

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere Prints Available

Also here, from the outlet of the lake, there is an opportunity for a fabulous shot down the lake to Fleetwith Pike which you can frame with trees.

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Footpath through Burtness Wood, Buttermere

A small gate across the bridge takes you along a path through the woodland that roughly parallels the lakeshore. There are great views everywhere along this path across the lake to High Snockrigg and the high fells of Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head or down to Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. 

Turn left at the end of the path to cross Peggy’s Bridge and reach a wall leading to a sheepfold and a gate. There are good views from here looking into Warnscale Bottoms over a stand of pines with the waterfall and crags behind. There are also some good shots to be had looking back down the lake to Mellbreak with the whitewashed bothy on the lakeshore contrasting with its dark slopes.

Go left through the gate, where there are usually Highland Cattle grazing, cross Warnscale Beck and walk out to Gatesgarth Farm (alternate parking spot). If you wish to investigate Warnscale Bottoms at closer hand, you can turn right at the farm and a little way up the road you will find a footpath leading off to the right where you will get some dramatic views. Continue up as far as you want to then return to the farm and carry straight on up the B5289. This is a narrow road and there are no pathways. Take care of approaching traffic.

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Sunrise over the Buttermere Pines Prints Available

After about a quarter of a mile, the road bends left where you leave it for a footpath signposted ‘Buttermere via Lakeshore Path’. The path leads into a field and across to a pebble spit by a new metal gate. There are some lovely views here back to ‘The Sentinels’, the small white bothy which lies on the southern shore of the lake and the cascades of Warnscale Beck. The latter can be very dramatic after heavy rain.

The reflections can be fantastic here very early on a still morning. Make sure that you get low down to the water to maximise them. In mixed weather, you may catch shafts of sunlight penetrating through the clouds down onto the trees and the lake.

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Boats moored at Dalegarth, Buttermere

Carry on along the lakeshore path and just before the path that goes steeply up to Dalegarth on the right, there are often a few wooden rowing boats tied up which make an interesting foreground to a shot across the lake to Haystacks. Use a long lens from here to isolate the pines and the white lakeshore bothy with the waterfalls of Warnscale Beck behind.

Soon the path enters the grounds of Hassness, where a rocky path, enclosed by trees, leads to a gate. Here a path has been cut across a crag where it plunges into the lake below, and shortly disappears into a brief, low and damp tunnel. It is difficult to get any images here as there is quite a big drop down to the lake and the shore is heavily wooded.

Photography locations around Buttermere

Image: Sheltering from the rain in Pike Rigg Woods, Buttermere

After you emerge from the tunnel you reach Hasness. The pebble beach is a great spot for a sunset looking back towards Mellbreak. Crag wood headland has some impressive pines on the lakeshore and a lovely pebble spit. A gate gives access to a gravel path across the wooded pasture of Pike Rigg. 

The path splits here and you can choose to return to the northern shore to have another crack at that ‘lone tree’ or carry on where a clear path leads on to Syke Farm and an easy walk out to the road just a short way above the Bridge Hotel. Do stop at Skye Farm for an ice cream though as they are home-made on the premises using milk from their own cows and are delicious.

Turn left to return to the car park.

© Martin Lawrence Photography 2018

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